Macedonian army under Alexander the Great

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The Macedonian cavalry

The army of Alexander the Great could be called Macedonian because it fought for the Macedonian king. Its troops were like many other armies in Antiquity only partly recruited from the kingdom itself. These soldiers from Macedonia proper were supplemented by considerable forces from other territories. The native Macedonians however remained the most important part of the army. These men served both in the cavalry as well as in the infantry. The most prestigious of the mounted troops were the hetairoi or companions. The companion cavalry had its origins in the retainers kept by the Macedonian royal house. At first the members of this elite unit were recruited among the Macedonian nobility. During the reign of king Philippus II its strength had however been raised from approximately 600 horsemen to over 3000 troopers. Only part of these were selected among Macedonian nobles, others were recruited from Thessaly and other parts of the Greek world.

These hetairoi were organised in ilai or 'wings' of some 200 men except for the basilikè ilè or agèma, the royal squadron, which had a strength of 300 to 400 cavalrymen. In battle these units of Macedonian hetairoi were generally formed up in a wedge formation.

The companion cavalry was equipped with metal helmets and various types of body armour. Some troopers wore linen or leather corselets reinforced with metal scales while others equipped themselves with bronze or iron breastplates. A number of horsemen may even have spurned the use of armour, either for reason of comfort or out of sheer bravado. Shields were probably only reserved for dismounted actions. The hetairoi usually carried a variety of heavy thrusting spears to act as heavy shock cavalry, though they were on occasion armed with javelins. A sword was at all times in use as...